We’ve done a follow up interview with an amazing artist that goes by the name S.A.A.R.A.
Born in North London, multi instrumentalist, composer, performer and sound artist; S.A.A.R.A, began her career in music as a bass player.
Over the years, she honed her songwriting, production and performance skills through her involvement in a diverse range of projects including Ezra Bang and Hot Machine (“guerilla funk”), Ash Walker (trip-hop) and, most recently Westerman (alt-pop).
As a solo artist, she pays homage to her influences; Kate Bush, Björk, Grace Jones, Gil Scot-Heron, Sly and the Family Stone, in refreshingly original tracks that feature synth, woodwind, beats and bass.
Described as “orchestral funk” (Ollie Winiberg, BBC Essex Introducing), the live band deliver energetic gigs that command the crowd to D.A.N.C.E. S.A.A.R.A weaves hypnotic bass lines around big beats, synth hooks and woodwind riffs before floating her distinctive vocals through the mix. With roots in indie, disco, punk, funk, EM and afrobeat, the result is club tracks, performed live, reclaiming the dance floor from the DJ!
June 10, 2021: Shrouded in a haze of isolation and uncertainty, anyone could start to question their surroundings. In her debut video, “Forest,” genre-defying EDM artist/composer S.A.A.R.A. blurs the line between what’s real and what’s imaginary. Whether a dream or a real-life dystopia, this track mirrors the dichotomy of grasping for connection online while feeling more and more detached…
Set to release on July 3, 2021, the “Forest” music video debut explores the unknown nature of existence, bringing viewers into a dazzling chasm of illusion. “I have quite a visual approach to song writing and production,” S.A.A.R.A observes, “I want to create atmospheres and experiences for the listener which can be transposed into the arrangement.”
Lisa: Hello again Sara! Let’s start with your Experimental-EDM Video “Forest”. I’ve listened the song before, and I think the video is a perfect match. What inspired this video?
SARA: I was so pleased to have Emily Seale Jones (Husk (2017) and Brunch, Bitches (2019)) on board as director for this video – she totally got the track and ran with it. Ahead of shooting, we talked about how to capture the sense of bewilderment and confusion that comes with existing between two worlds, neither of which feels like a true reality. We also wanted to play with texture, light, and optical illusion; mirroring the layers of the song.
Emily built the story around the interaction between me, and the character played by Eric Kole (Fifty Pence (2012), Hold (2014)). We both, in moments, appear to have a knowledge of each other but we never share the same moment, almost like we were imaginary to each other. It is a bit like a magical ghost story which perfectly captures the haunting and beguiling nature of the track.
Lisa: What has been most challenging aspect of your current releases?
SARA: It’s been really challenging releasing music and not being able to perform the tracks live. Even meeting up to rehearse has had its challenges – 50% of the line up are woodwind players!! This project was born out of wanting to make gigs all about dancing together. Covid really put the kibosh on all of tha!!. But, we are getting back to it and hope to be back to playing live shows in the autumn, if not before!!
Lisa: The last time we’ve spoke you said you’d like to see, or be a part of a change, that sees more female musicians, producers, performers getting the billing and recognition they deserve. Do you see any changes in this trend?
SARA: I think there has been some change – incremental – but at least it’s something. It’s great to see so many platforms online that are creating safe spaces for female artists and also technicians to develop their craft, network and also showcase their work and skills. It’s a shame that these spaces are needed, still, but I for one am super grateful for them. It’s great to see that there is a level of consciousness with regards to seeing that major festivals have more balanced lineups. Also great to see more women represented in awards and nominations within the industry that have usually been malke dominated.
Lisa: What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
SARA: Social media can be a double-edged sword indeed – where are we more real; online, or offline? This was the inspiration behind “Forest”. As a tool to bring us together, it’s amazing, however it can also mean that we’re not spending enough time in the world that is in front of us, in that moment. I try to be conscious of how I spend my time on social media, especially if I feel a doom scroll coming on. That’s the time to go for a walk or pick up the bass. Of all the platforms, I find Instagram the best way to connect with fans. I treat my handle as a bit of a visual diary, as much as I admire people with very curated accounts, I like to share what I’m doing day-to-day which is mainly goofing about.
Lisa: Also, last time we spoke, you said regarding your vocals, you take your inspiration from singers who may not necessarily be ‘technically’ brilliant but are captivating none the less. Could you name some of them, and what is so unique about their voice?
SARA: Oh well I guess before I name names, I should note that when I say ‘technically brilliant’ I’m talking about people with vocal styles that would have gotten them kicked out of stage school rather than them lacking in any degree. Bjork is such an inspiration in that regard. She really takes ownership for the unique quality of her voice and builds her songs around it. She is completely inimitable.
Kate Bush is a huge influence and also Poly Styrene from X-Ray Specs, Janis Joplin and Nina Simone – she does some incredible and unusual things with her voice which I love. I am a huge fan of Gil Scott Heron – you can completely feel the emotion behind all his words whether he is singing or speaking. I guess with all these artists, they treat their voices like a super unique instrument, often playing with tone and texture to also tell the story of the song.
Lisa: Do you tend to follow any predefined patterns when composing a song?
SARA: Over the past few months I’ve been trying to get a bit more scientific/ structured with my approach to writing but I’ve found that the songs I really enjoy working on kinda write themselves. I usually start with drums and bass and see what sticks in terms of a riff or a hook. I then start writing in the arrangement and see where the mood of the track is going. By that point, I get a sense of what the song might be about and lyrics start to emerge. With each song, I break it into sections and try to have, at least, a part A and a Part B – not necessarily verse and chorus, but more like contrasting movements. It’s fun to experiment with the traditional elements of pop tracks and arrange them in interesting ways.
Lately I’ve learnt the value of not pressuring myself or being attached to a certain outcome. Exploration and experimentation has always been at the heart of how I work. Sometimes you get a song, sometimes you get frustrated LOL.
Lisa: Describe your approach to recording.
SARA: I really enjoy the recording process – it’s a great way to really get inside the song as you have to focus on every beat of the track, making sure that each element is contributing something invaluable. Making this EP, it was the first time I had taken a project into the studio as the lead composer. Needless to say, I learned a lot about the recording process and also managing the recording process. Much of the trials and tribulations encountered really helped define the sound of the project moving forward. For instance, the original plan was to use live drums on the record however we just couldn’t get the same amount of punch so we switched them out and returned to using the programmed drums, keeping the tracks much more akin to the original demos I recorded at home.
I’m really excited about recording the next EP with much more experience under my belt.
Lisa: What are some newer projects that you are currently working on?
SARA: We have 2 amazing remixes of Forest due in the next couple of months. Thrilled to be working again with Rich Pack who did the insanely good Poundnotes remix of our first release Grace Jones. We’ll also have a remix done by an incredible artist called Drembot who’s given it an experimental dark-disco electro vibe.
Planning to release the EP at the end of summer which will include 2 new tracks that are oldies but goodies. and also getting back into rehearsals so that we can get our shows back on the road!!
Lisa: What are your plans for the future?
SARA: Really looking forward to recording the next EP!! I think it’ll be a mix between home and studio recording. Very excited about the new tracks and going into this process with a lot more confidence and clarity for how it’s going to sound and the first record was quite an experimental process. Also really hoping to get some good shows lined up and get booked onto some festivals for next year, all being well with the return to a ‘new’ normal.
If I can, I would also like to spend some time working on my sound art, potentially creating another immersive sound installation or writing another film score. Really pleased to say I wrote a score for a short film called ‘The Dinner Party’ which won second place at the Northampton film Festival in May so, again, it will be great to go again with that process with a bit more confidence in writing to feature.